Episode 18: With Bobby Thomson and Michael Pelikan

 

About the Episode:

Do you know how your customer really feels about your business? What keeps them loyal to your brand? Or what’s contributing to membership churn? As the car wash space continues to experience a tech boom, it’s important for car wash operators to know what resources are available and identify the specific technology solutions providers that might be a right fit for their business to boost operational efficiencies and enhance the customer experience.

This episode examines how one company is capturing consumer sentiment, categorizing and quantifying customer data, and leveraging it to provide real-time actionable insights to operators to help make informed decisions about their business. Host Lanese Barnett talks with Director of Operations Michael Pelikan and Founder Bobby Thomspon of Retention Express, an omni-channel, white-labeled customer experience support provider specializing in the car wash industry, about customer retention and retention of revenue.

Sign up for Car Wash M&A, The Newsletter. | Follow us on social media @AmplifyCarWashAdvisors on LinkedIn or Facebook. | Connect with Lanese on LinkedIn.

More about Bobby Thomson:

Bobby Thomson has a tremendous amount of experience, including 22 years at AT&T Advertising, where he was in sales and retention leadership positions. Bobby was responsible for preserving, growing, and protecting $225M in MRR. Thomson coached and developed hundreds of sales and retention specialists in one of seven call centers for AT&T. He launched a new retention call center division for AT&T with 500,000 customers nationally.

Thomson became a consultant in the car washing space for a high growth operator and found that the churn rate was a problem for owners and operators with no proactive solution. Because of his experience with retention call centers at AT&T, that led to the creation of Retention Express! Learn more about Retention Express on their site and connect with Bobby Thomson on LinkedIn.

More about Michael Pelikan:

Michael brings ten years of experience in contact center and business process operations, having previously led the Delivery organization within the End User Support practice of the Managed Services division of a large staffing agency. He holds a degree from Concordia University – Saint Paul, where he majored in Business Administration and played on the football team.

Check out the full transcript below:

Lanese

Welcome to Car Wash M&A, The Podcast. This is episode 18, and today, we are talking about a subject that is so important to all car wash owners, especially right now. It is about how you can leverage data in your business to really drive profitability and boost operational efficiencies. As we keep moving through the rest of the year, and looking forward to next year, that operational efficiency component is so important. So without further ado, I would like to introduce my guests today. With me today I have Michael Pelikan with Retention Express. He is the director of operations. And I also have Bobby Thomson, who is the founder of Retention Express. Today we’re going to talk about what they do to help really provide resources to car wash owners on how to understand their customers better, understand their business better, and provide these solutions for cost savings for operators. Hi, everyone. Thank you for being on the show today.

Bobby Thomson

Good morning.

Michael Pelikan

Morning, Lanese!

Bobby Thomson

Congratulations on episode 18. Big deal!

Lanese

Right? Thanks. And just as a reminder for our listeners, Bobby was featured on an early episode of ours, on episode five. So if you’d ever like to go back and hear more about the origin story of Retention Express and hear that early conversation, you can find that on Amplifywash.com/podcast, and you can search for Episode Five. Okay, so Michael, would you please first give us a little background on you and what your role is at Retention Express as well as just a quick overview of what the goal and mission of Retention Express?

Michael Pelikan

Yeah, absolutely, Lanese. So again, my name is Michael Pelikan. I’ve been with Retention Express for about six months. Prior to joining, I worked at a large managed service company where we were doing a lot of outbound contact center driven work within Fortune 500 state and federal governments. And Bobby gave me an opportunity to join about six months ago into kind of the startup environment. And my role as director of operations is to really look at our processes, our procedures, how are we operating from a contact center customer experience perspective, and not only manage our current environment to be successful, but also to build our processes and procedures to be scalable. We’re continuing to add new customers every month, and what we’re building needs to be sustainable, not only for now, but also in the next three to five to ten years as this company continues to evolve, not only in the carwash industry, but potentially into other verticals. My job is to be hands on with our agents, to be hands on with our clients, to be able to provide the feedback that we’re seeing, but also to ensure that the customers of our brands are really getting top notch white glove service. Not only do I manage the performance, I get on the phones, Bobby gets on the phones, we interact with these customer brands all the time, and it’s really great to get a pulse of the customer from a firsthand experience.

Lanese

Before I ask the next question, Bobby, can you give a quick overview of Retention Express and why you felt that there was this need for for your company when you were starting out in 2020?

Bobby Thomson

Yeah, great question. Part of my background, which I’ve told before, being at AT&T, we had a huge problem. It was a $2 billion company, and when you don’t listen to your customers, that can definitely contribute to your churn. It creates a lot of other problems. When I was in a role working with car wash owners and operators, the problem existed even down to a one site location, let alone multi sites. I felt like there’s definitely a really good opportunity to help owner operators to improve efficiency, right? Really listen to the customers to gather the data and the insight because really what goes away from day to day on how employees operate and manage. They’re busy on site. They don’t have time to capture the data, which is really what you need so you can get away from kind of that gut feeling. Or here’s what we hear quite a bit. And an issue that may be one or two times, you know, you blow it up, and it becomes a big ordeal, and it’s really not a big ordeal. The data kind of really tells you what your problems could be, let alone what are the good things that you’re doing, too, because customer feedback comes in all forms, shapes and sizes, and you want to get that outlet to your customers. And moods! Believe me, we get every mood swings coming in, you know, on behalf of these different operators that we work with, and when you deal with the public, you know, it’s funny. There are some funny people out there for sure. But at the end of the day, we want to make the experience a really good one for the customers, help the owner and operators get better in handling their operations, let their employees really kind of focus on what you want them to focus on on site, and we help them really on an off site. But the key thing I think that we drive and do is communication, right? Our collaboration, every day, throughout the whole day, of how we communicate to site managers to owner and operators, is very visible. And when we share a partnership, the partnership is, “Hey, the customer has a problem. We need to help solve it, but we need your help to do it.” So we work together. And the fact is, we can keep track of that process from start to finish to ensure that the customer doesn’t get left behind, and it doesn’t drag on longer than it needs to. The whole goal is to really shorten the gap of how we communicate, make sure that customers are being taken care of, whether it’s a cancellation, whether it’s a refund issue, whether it’s a billing problem, right? Double billing happens quite a bit, and it is real, so it takes time to investigate it. And more importantly, customers want to ensure that everything is taken care of.

Michael Pelikan

Yeah, we’re a white label, white glove, customer experience, third party support, so we handle predominantly inbound contact for our owners and operators. We’re taking that lift of that customer interaction, and handling the majority of that back office functionality, which gives our owners and operators the freedom to be able to focus on what really matters, which is the customers on site location, making sure that their wash experience is positive. We handle all of that volume, and then partner with our site providers to ensure that we’re providing this feedback to this data, the leading reasons for cancellations or, you know, what sort of feedback are we receiving. We handle in all incoming contact, as well as then produce and perform some outbound campaigns as well.

Lanese

Perfect. And thank you for that background on Retention Express and also both of your roles. So Michael, earlier you said that part of your role as director of operations is making sure that the company itself, Retention Express, is scalable, but also a mission of Retention Express is being able to help car wash owners and operators scale their business by solving some of these major problems or issues or challenges that they have with how they interact with their customers and how they communicate with them, especially off site. And then also what do they do with the information that they receive? So if it is a customer issue, and a customer calls the location, maybe it’s answered, maybe it’s not answered, even if it is resolved, was that information captured? And then is there this aggregate data that then can drive decisions for the owner operator on how they move forward or how they make decisions about their business. Could you share with us some of the examples of data and information that you capture, and where that goes? Then ultimately we’ll talk about what you do with it.

Michael Pelikan

Yeah, absolutely. Great question, Lanese, and I’ll share my screen here in just a moment. But the way our company operates is out of a telephony and ticketing system, and what that means is every customer call, text, email, web form submitted, live chat, is a recorded ticket, and our agents document that ticket in a very detailed way. It’s obviously the brand, down to the site location, down to the reason for that ticket. And as Bobby mentioned before, it could be for a number of things: it could be a member that is looking to dive into their billing and why they were double billed. It could be a retail customer who’s calling in about hours of operations. We detail and document all of those categories to really paint a picture. And with that, we provide all of our customers with access into our Power BI dashboard. It is a client dashboard that funnels in the data from our telephony system and provides various dashboards in terms of specific areas. Areas that we highlight are obviously cancellations. Cancellation data is critical. It gives you the opportunity to really view and look at trends that could be happening in the business to be able to pivot, so we provide our customers this access so they can get a real time sense of what’s going on. I’ll share my screen here just to kind of highlight briefly what we kind of have from a customer view perspective. On the screen here, you will see that this is for 2023, and it gives us a snapshot of the cancellation reasons. The amount of cancellations we’ve had that have just been a natural discontinue, so a customer calling in three weeks before their billing, for whatever reason they’re saying they want to cancel. It is a natural discontinuation of that membership. We also track terminations with refunds. What could those reasons be? Why did those terminations occur? And also tracking the refund amount. Was a month? Was it two months? What led to that?

Lanese

Michael, for our listeners that are listening via audio only, can you just give me and paint a picture for the listeners about what it is that your clients and these car wash owners see on the dashboard through Retention Express?

Michael Pelikan

Absolutely. Great point, Lanese. They’re able to see various data points, such as number of cancellations that occurred over a set period of time. Within that we have another graph that will highlight the cancellation reasons top to bottom for their leading categories down to their their lowest categories. Constantly, we see the leading category is always lack of use. And we’ve actually had recent calls with customers about how do we drive lack of use down what is the strategy behind Retention Express as well as are our clients to say how can we get use and lack of use as their leading reason to maybe drop that down by several percentage points. We also provide customer exit sentiment, and I think this is a really important one. We try to capture how that customer is feeling on the exit. Are they a promoter? Are they someone who’s saying, “Hey, you know, I love this brand. Right now, money’s tight. I’m going to go back to single washes, but I love y’all. We’re gonna continue to represent and promote you to all my friends and family!” That is a positive story. We also capture passive people that may just not use the wash enough; they really don’t have much of a way of saying, am I promoter a detractor? Then you have the detractors, the ones that you really want to dive in on: what was the experience that led to someone leaving? We also provide a graph that highlights what are the different areas of customer exit sentiment for us to really be able to attack and ensure that we continue to have those high promoter scores, as well as low detractor scores. So that is on the dashboard in a one screenshot.

Lanese

I love this, because from an operational experience for myself, it was really hard to capture why people were canceling. Because you don’t have time. If you’re on site, and it’s a busy Saturday with a line of cars, finding out all that information can be a real challenge. This sounds like, because this is your agent’s sole job of communicating with customers, that there is a different a different capability to dive into what that is, and then what you can do about that information. Having it, and then also seeing patterns and different points of data about it.

Bobby Thomson

I’ll jump in real fast too. So the whole point, when we talk to customers are looking to cancel, we’re all about trying to retain customers, too. It’s not like we’re just support like saying, “Hey, why are you canceling?” Then we move on. There are actually really reasons if people give it to you that we can actually help them to solve their problem where they can keep their membership active. And an easy one that we found is when people wrecked a car. They’re like, “Hey, I need to cancel my membership.” “Well, did you know that we can transfer your membership?” Literally, they are not aware that it’s a simple process to do that. We really try and help keep revenue on a continuous path for the owner and operators and not have a break in it. Because if you get a break in the billing, you may or may not get them back. And if you can keep them going, then obviously you increase that LTV, the lifetime value, of that consumer. It is much better for the bottom line. When we tie in the customer exit sentiment, if we have a lot of detractors, we’re getting that feedback of why they do not want to do business with that brand. That’s immediate feedback that we provide to them. Sometimes it’s controllable, and sometimes it’s not. If they feel like you scratched their car, and they’re just really upset, and you’re not going to approve a damage claim, you’re probably not going to get them back. But we capture that sentiment to really let them know what that exit is. It is basically a deeper view of their customer, and is there a good opportunity in the future, when they do leave the brand, will they come back to them? That’s what we want, right? The exit of an exiting member doesn’t mean they’re not going to come back in the future. We hear all reasons. And it does vary throughout the whole year. Right? May and June, all of the Florida customers are going back to Canada. You make it difficult for them when they come back in the fall… Or Scottsdale, right? Yeah, it’s seasonal. There’s a lot of seasonality that goes on throughout the whole year. And those are the people you definitely don’t want to make upset, and they’ll find somebody else. We really try and make it easy for them and capture the sentiment, and if they’re a promoter of the brand, we love that. We love getting more of that feedback.

Lanese

So Bobby, something that I hear you say, and we’ve known each other for quite some time and I’ve been following why you made this business and the purpose that it serves, which is to really help car wash owner and operators protect that back door of their business. Just like you were talking about with the customer exit sentiment, even though somebody might be leaving a membership plan, they could still be a retail customer. But as you’re putting all these efforts into marketing and to attracting customers, but really making sure that you’re not losing customers, and you’re lowering that churn, or if you are experiencing higher churn, what actionable strategies can you take to do about that. Protecting that back door, I think, is just so critical. But the other thing that you were really touching on here is being the voice of the customer. And that’s another really, really powerful piece of this component that I feel is unique to you guys is that you want to find out what that customer voice is, what their concerns are. But you also, again, have that time to really dive into it and explore that with them in a very different way, than perhaps an onsite manager or a customer service attendant may be able to with the other operational obligations that they have throughout the day.

Bobby Thomson

Totally, I mean, it’s kind of a known fact that, you know, customers will leave a brand. If they have one problem one time that doesn’t get resolved, about 65% of them will maybe never come back. So if you don’t give them an opportunity to tell you what their issue is, or what their positive feedback is, because we do get that on how they want to compliment employees… you do work hard, and it’s 102 degrees, or in Phoenix, it’s 120, you know, they’re working hard out there… People do want to recognize them for the good, but also for the bad. You should give them an outlet to express, and you can do that not only in talking to them, but in responding to emails. You can do it in your surveys, right, and how you respond back to them and the feedback that they provide. We work with all different marketing companies that help these owner and operators, OptSpot, Welcomemat, they do a really good job working with these owner and operators. They’re all trying to get the feedback from the consumer. Our customers who use those platforms, we can extend the messaging, so if a negative feedback came in, we actually take it a step further to call a consumer back to try and get them back on site with a free coupon or just really understand what their issue was, and pass that feedback on because it’s just really invaluable to the owner and operator to get the feedback and let the customer be heard. And honestly, we get we get feedback from the customers who thank us we’re calling them when they never expected even get a call back. That helps drive the brand loyalty there, too.

Lanese

Right. And Michael, this is something that in training and working with your agents, just to clarify, when this car wash customer is getting a call back, they’re getting a call back from the brand that they frequent, so they have no idea that you even exist as Retention Express because your agents are operating in brand as the car wash that they serve, so that’s an extension of the service that the brand provides, and how they’re able to communicate with customers and everything.

Bobby Thomson

100 percent.

Lanese

You have such an integral role in extending the communication line and the communication opportunities with customers in a very direct and meaningful way.

Michael Pelikan

Absolutely. And the one thing I’ll say is the thing we see the most is we are truly that extension of the brand. The customer experience on site is one element. What is their experience when they call the back office? What’s the experience when they call with a problem. Oftentimes, our site partners are providing them with a card that says this is our customer experience team, they can handle this, and they give us a call, or they shoot us an email. So we truly do provide that extension. We always stay in brand; they don’t know that our operators have potentially outsourced this service. It can be viewed as that they don’t care when they outsource something, that it is not as important, but it couldn’t be any further from the truth. They’re spending money to dedicate a service so that they’re getting the best customer experience possible. And we have the infrastructure and technology as well as the training, the agents, as well as the background from Bobby and I with, you know, well over 30 years of contact center experience to really be able to drive that and really improve that element of the back end and the back door, as we’ve talked about, while the operators focus on the things that they do best, which is running that car wash effectively and efficiently and giving a really great onsite experience.

Lanese

Yeah, and just in thinking about the advancements of technology, specifically as relates to the car wash space and how we’re able to capture so much more data between license plate recognition and these other different marketing services that have a different communication outreach and channel to customers. But still, the thing that’s different about Retention Express is that you have the the live communication component to where it’s not one set piece of data that maybe is captured kind of existentially about a customer, like a license plate, or a phone number and email, or things like that. You get to get their their thoughts, their sentiment, their story. You can ask different questions on the phone based on where the conversation is going in real time and then categorize the information that you receive to then paint a better picture of your different types of customers or feedback, or that sentiment, which I find really interesting, that there is the opportunity for it to, you know, continue to grow and evolve. And you can learn to ask new questions based on that of what you’re finding out.

Michael Pelikan

Absolutely. And the one thing I’ll say is… and Bobby and I always note this to our brands: we are not an answering service. We are not getting on the phones to quickly get someone off of it; we are problem solvers. And Bobby and I refer to this all the time, it’s either the customer journey, or the customer story. It is more than just looking at, you know, their usage. It is really diving into their billing, into their issue that they may have. Hearing them out about their experience they had on site. And you mentioned it before, Lanese, if you’re an on site operator, and you handle a cancellation, it’s really viewed as a singular transaction. Always with our singular transactions, the data and the stories and the feelings that our agents are able to take from those calls, and then bring forward to our leadership team, we can make quick and effective change on site. Oftentimes, we hear that the sales component at the pay station is often not very clear. And when we’re here that several times our agents are aware enough to say, “Hey, this isn’t a one off. Something’s happening at this location where customers are not having a good experience in terms of how the memberships are being sold and articulated.” And we can provide that feedback to those operators, and they can add additional training to those attendance to clean that element of that interaction. Because you only get a few seconds with them. You’ve got to be clear, you’ve got to be concise about what they’re signing up for. And if they feel deceived, if they feel like they’ve been misled, that is going to lead to that negative sentiment, that quick exit, and they’re not going to come back. By us being able to, again, capture that customer journey and those true feelings, we’re able to give a lot of insight back to our sites and let them know how people are feeling in terms of just their overall journey with the company.

Lanese

As we started this, and just talking about the theme of this series that we’re working on of how data can be a tool and help boost your bottom line, it’s one thing to get the data, but then it’s another thing to categorize and organize it. And then it’s a further thing to have that make a difference in your business in a very impactful and meaningful way to enhance your operational efficiency and to provide greater customer service or enhanced customer experience. As we talk about these different actionable insights, one of them being what people or sales agents are saying when talking to customers, and you can reveal if there are incongruencies with what customers, their car wash customers, are saying back to you of of what they heard there, and then offer suggestions and insight on how they could adjust to those messages that they have. What are some other things that that you guys find?

Bobby Thomson

Typically, with new members, when they get signed up on location, it is easy to kind of pitch a promotional offer that you’re providing to them. And that is where the expectation has to begin to create the best experience. Oftentimes, you know, it happens quite a bit. It could be new people, It could just be people in contests, right? Whatever it may be… you never want your end user to feel like it’s a contest, like they’re getting hard sold, right? A lot of times, they will call in and go, “They told me it is only for 30 days,” and they just never take that next step to go, this will automatically renew in month two. And people, they want to blame it on the employee every time, because it’s not their fault, right? But those are things that you can just tighten up from a training standpoint that help out, and when we get a lot of feedback, we definitely pass it on to the owner and operator. We just go, “Hey, your churn is kind of going up, and we’re getting a lot of people that are upset because they felt like they didn’t get the correct information at the time of sale.” That is a very controllable thing for an operator. Much more than, “Hey, I’ve moved out of Scottsdale and went to Utah.” Things like that, you really want to identify, what are the controllable issues that you can manage and control at an employee level? And then look at the other things that are maybe uncontrollable, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it.

Lanese

And we don’t have to dive too far into this. But just to make sure our listeners understand, too, that your team and your agents have access to the point of sales of the brands that you represent, so that they’re able to take that resolution step.

Bobby Thomson

First call resolution. Yeah, the whole goal is first call resolution as much as possible. Part of the playbook that we build out with the owner and operators is the empowerment level. That was the one thing I learned at AT&T is you’ve got to empower people to solve issues if you want them to be problem solvers. If you just want them to answer the phone, but you’re not going to give them any empowerment, you kind of hold them down. They’re not going to solve customer problems, and it creates more time for somebody else to actually go fix it. So with empowerment, they get more enjoyment out of the role, and the customer feels much better about the brand. So getting access, we work in every point of sale provider. I don’t know of one that we do not operate in every single day. So all the major brands we work with, the app memberships we work with, every one of them, we work every day in. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a private equity and you’re acquiring other brands, and they go from DRB on one site, and then you acquire another group that is Sonny’s, we can fill in immediately. And we already are kind of experts in these point of sales at this point, that we can step right in and help them from day one of any acquisition or new store opening, let alone new owners coming in, like you’ve mentioned before, with all the new people coming in.

Lanese

Gosh, I’m so glad that you brought that up, Bobby, because it is a really important overlay of these different POS providers they have, or these different sites, especially from an acquisition level, it’s very costly to change out the equipment. And there’s time and cost associated with that. As brands are growing, and they have a mix of different POS providers, this is really a solution for operating seamlessly with inside of multiple types of it, but within one brand, that is really helpful as regional and private equity backed… or just chains looking to grow, as they’re looking to do that, this is a real tool and solution for some of those challenges that they can face.

Bobby Thomson

Yeah, we have customers that have five different POSs. When a call comes in, the first thing we have to do is identify, you know, where are they located, location, things like that, because the location, you know, even in a given market, you can have three different POSs in one given market. So it’s really important that you don’t waste a lot of time in one POS, you can’t find them because you’ve got to identify if they’re in one of the other two. But it happens every day. And it’s pretty common, I think operators know this. It adds another level of complexity, and complexity adds the time. That’s one really key value, I think, that we do provide is that we’re agnostic; we can work with them in any POS. And the goal is, you know, we are trying to help the customers. Some of these investigations do take 20 or 25 minutes to really dive into it. That’s time that somebody would have to spend to do it effectively for one customer. Not, you know, for five! Just for one. We get that kind of detailed level end service.

Lanese

Right. Michael, as you are working with your team, and you have multiple brands that you all represent, are there any trends that you’re seeing, from an industry perspective on things that are coming up that maybe you hadn’t built into the original model that you’re seeing as a thing now that wasn’t a thing before? Are there any industry trends that you’re noticing as you work with more and more car wash owners across the country?

Michael Pelikan

For me, it’s tough, because I’m only five months into the industry as a whole, so I don’t have a long road of what it was like before. But what I will say is I’ve really noticed a strong trend of people being very driven by these promotional offerings and being very tied to them. We have a lot of brands that are sending out potential offerings to specific locations, but based off their marketing, that customer may go to one location, hear about a 9.99 offer for three months, and we have to talk through that that kind of trend in terms of is this offer to you? Is it not? A member calling in saying, “Hey, so you guys are giving off a great deal right now! I’ve been with you for a year. How do I get that?” And so one of the things we’re seeing is just how the customers are engaging, from a promotional standpoint, both active members in terms of what it means for them, and a lot of our customers are starting to look towards, okay, when we do these promotions, our current customers may feel slighted, they may feel like “I never got this when I signed up a year ago.” And so we’re really starting to see several brands start going to more of like a loyalty program where they are may be giving swag. They’re looking at tenure, wash activity to say, “Okay, this person washes with us five times a month. They’re obviously a heavy user.” What can we… Is there a club that we can put them in? Can we give them certain offerings? Can we give them, you know, anything that could just put them above just a normal user. And so, we’ve really started to see how not only just how the membership model has changed, but how the brand loyalty and like a VIP type club, that they’re looking to take care of their biggest promoters, are really starting to come to fruition. I can say at least three or four different brands that we work with have something in the pipeline to roll out in the next three to six months in terms of how do we take care of our most loyal customers and really show that we care outside of just giving them a great wash experience.

Lanese

Right and thanks for sharing. It’s that retention of the customer, so keeping especially your most loyal and your happiest customers happy in perpetuity, and making them feel recognized and part of it, and having that identification with the brand and that relationship with the brand.

Michael Pelikan

Absolutely. I mean those type of customers are the ones that have to have their own vehicles on a plan, or their whole family has a membership, or they’ve recommended 15 other people and friends and family, and so it’s so much further than just that single interaction for that customer. They truly represent, they promote, and they drive further revenue that’s really tough to capture unless you provide them with a referral code. But the value in the input, in the drive to membership, is really truly there with your absolutely most loyal customers that truly love the brand and love to promote it.

Lanese

Yeah, definitely. Bobby, anything you want to add to that?

Bobby Thomson

Well, I think you see a big push for technology coming in. As membership volume is multiplying for owner and operators who are really gravitating to the model, and they’re really trying to expand on it, technology is coming more into play: how do you communicate with your people better? How do you manage memberships better? How do you engage with memberships better? How do you use automations to help them? Rinsed and other platforms are very visible in the car wash community, trying to make it easy to do business because in scale, it is very difficult to do it one by one. And automation is important. You have AI, you know, that’s out there. And there’s ChatGPT, right, that can help you write better scripts. It can help you, you know, determine the sentiment of people, of how they communicate, and make sure your reply back to them is at the right tone. So I just see technology coming in to really help us in the industry in a lot of different ways, all the way down to how you train employees, right? How do new hires get to come on board? There’s just so much out there of organization and process improvements. And I think the old days of car washing, you know, just kind of figuring it out, is kind of, you know, definitely the old school way. There’s just so much out there that I think people are realizing what technology can really, really help them help their business.

Lanese

And something that’s really great about this emerging technology for car wash owners as these operational efficiencies and solutions tools is the collaboration and how these different platforms work together. So I know, Bobby, that you guys have relationships and work very seamlessly amongst other technology solutions providers, like you mentioned Rinsed, or I know AMP Memberships, and these other areas, as well as the the POS provider, but we know that they have to have that. But it’s these other even third party technology solutions providers that that you work with.

Bobby Thomson

Totally. We’re trying to help them. Our commonality is we’re both trying to help the owner and operators. So we always want to partner, you know, be a good steward of a partnership, not only the owner and operators, but how do all of their investment in marketing and technology, how can we help them become even better? Because at the end of the day, we are the people element in a world of automation that is getting bigger and bigger. You can’t do it on automation alone. When the automation breaks down, who’s going to fix it? When customers can’t get that solved through any kind of automation, somebody’s got to go in and do it. Someone’s got to follow up with the customer, so we are the live agents, the human interaction, you know, the element piece to it, that really kind of brings everything in. We’re full technology platform ourself. I’m a technology solutions partner, so I can help people with their phone systems, and everything else. The whole goal is how do you leverage it? And more importantly, once you do have it, whatever you put into it is what you get out of it. So it’s one thing to have technology, but you got to dive deep into it to get the most out of it, to make it the most effective.

Lanese

Yeah, totally. And I think that that has been one of the most interesting things that I’ve seen, from my point of view, just watching the industry and being involved with it over the last decade plus of seeing how this new technology has emerged, and then how there’s multiple solutions that all work together to enhance those efficiencies. And you were talking about the role of technology and that there’s things that we can automate. And there’s things that we can have, systems in place that are without human oversight, but not all of it. Like it’s like some things you can tactically use AI or use automated functions, but you still have to have the human interaction. And we have seen that from kind of an industry perspective of a time where there was a shift to contactless transactions at the pay gate. So you know, pay gates came around, and then do you have someone there / do you not have someone there. That can be up to the certain brand of the location, and there can be all kinds of reasons why you would or wouldn’t do it. But on a broader scale, people identify with other people. So the brand can be great, and the products can be great, but that connection with a specific location and people more than just automation alone. So that coupling of that and the marrying of that is still really important, no matter what technology advances we have.

Bobby Thomson

Yeah, and look, people are busy today, and people are very mobile. And we just find that your website can be beautiful, it can be well built, full of content, and people will call with the most basic questions. And what that tells me is they literally get on their phone, probably go and google, type in your location and the brand name, and just hit call. They don’t even take the time to go look for the information themselves. So having the people element there is definitely critical. And I just think that behavior that exists in the marketplace is not going to go away anytime soon. We don’t see it going away. People still want to get a hold of somebody and talk to them and try and get their issue resolved.

Lanese

You know, that’s such a great example, because it’s so true.

Bobby Thomson

We’re all like that, right? I do the same thing! It’s easier to get a phone, to call, and keep your day going or keep driving, If it’s legal to talk on the phone in your state while you’re driving.

Lanese

But also how great if you are the caller, when you have somebody answer and solve your your question right away. I mean, that’s totally a win/win. And that’s something that I see for Retention Express that, you know, you’re looking for the win for the brand, and the win for the customer, and it’s representative of both of those.

Bobby Thomson

It’s a win/win model 100%. It’s all about retention of revenue, retention of customers, which makes it a win/win for both sides.

Lanese

Absolutely. Thank you guys both. This is such a great conversation today. And I always enjoy talking about customer experience and how we can provide better experience and a better service to our clients and how the car wash industry is evolving, and really focusing on their customers and their experience on the washes and off the wash sites. It’s just a different conversation on a much deeper level than it was in the past. Because we have different tools and resources and technology like you guys available to be able to understand this and to dive further in than say 10 years ago. So Michael, you have been in the cars industry for a little over six months. What is the biggest thing that has surprised you about the industry in your journey so far?

Michael Pelikan

That’s a really great question. I have to be honest, I was not a heavy carwash user previously to joining Retention Express. My wife loves it, she’s always been… I actually take her car more than I took my own. But just the passion on both sides, the operators, the attendants, the passion they have for the work that they do, but the passion of the customers. They really care about getting their car washed. And we see that from the angriest of customers who are upset by their experience to the customers that just love these brands so much. I spoke with a woman yesterday. And she called in to say she wanted to give the entire crew at this location a huge shout out, and that she goes almost once a week, she knows them all by name, she brings them waters on hot days. And like she just wanted leadership to know that like they’re fantastic… their energy, the way they connect with the customer, she just loved it. And I was like, you don’t see this everywhere. You don’t see people calling Netflix to thank them for everything that they do. And these customers really connect with these sites. They know these attendants, they know the site managers, and they build a bond. And that has been probably the most surprising to me, it was just like the connection and passion that the whole industry has and the people that leverage the service have as well. And so it has been infectious to me. I now have a membership. I go once a week, and I take my wife’s car. So I will say I’ve redeemed myself. I have one now, but I see it. I feel it. And it is wonderful to go to these washes and to see how hard these operators work, and how these people truly connect with these attendants. And so that’s been the most surprising element for me so far.

Lanese

Oh, thank you for sharing that. I ask that question off and on throughout the years. And that’s a little bit different take on the passion part of it, which I really, really like. And especially when you’re talking about, you know, passion can go both ways, you know, negative or positive, but it’s because there’s a caring, and there is a connection. Otherwise it would be indifference. I like that. But most people that I talk to say that it’s something about the people.

Michael Pelikan

Oh yeah, it is. And I swear, it’s animals, children, and your car are the three things that people care most about. And people are really serious about taking good care of their vehicles, and it is evident in all sides. And so I couldn’t agree more with you, Lanese. It is a passion industry. And I love it. It’s been infectious for me as well.

Lanese

Well, we’re happy to have you. It is neat to see how people get exposed to it, and then talk about retention. Most car wash people don’t leave. So if you become into the car wash industry, you just stay because of all of these great things about it. But really just to kind of sum up what we’re talking about today is we’re passionate about making sure that we are providing tools and resources and information and insights to car wash operators and professionals on how they can run a successful business because we love this industry and it’s a great place to be, and we want to be looking forward to all of the things that it can continue to grow into and be successful and provide successful careers and lives. hoods for folks. Thank you for sharing about what Retention Express does on capturing data, but more importantly, what you can do with that information to make critical decisions about your business and have it be more successful and have it be more efficient and boost your sales and all of those kinds of good things wrapped up in one.

Bobby Thomson

Absolutely. Well, thank you for having us. We enjoyed it. As always!

Michael Pelikan

It was a pleasure, Lanese.

Lanese

Yes, thank you guys so much. And so for me here in Texas, it is hot as all get out. You guys are in Atlanta. How’s the weather there?

Bobby Thomson

We’re going to hit triple digits, and it’s going to be miserable the next two days, so welcome to the south.

Michael Pelikan

Little steamy.

Lanese

Yeah… Does steam get the cars dirty, too? Some mineral deposits from that somehow?

Michael Pelikan

I’ll keep you posted. I’m actually taking my wife’s car this afternoon. I’ve got to do my weekly trip. So we’ll see how they’re doing over there at the wash.

Lanese

Awesome. Well, thank you guys so much for sharing. And if any of our listeners want to find out more information about Retention Express, you can go to retentionexpress.com You can call Bobby or you can call Michael. And I’m sure they would be more than happy to connect with you and share their passion about what they do and how they can help you.

Bobby Thomson

Absolutely. Thank you everybody.

Michael Pelikan

Thanks, everyone.

Lanese

Thanks.

Jet Brite Car Wash

With decades of hands-on experience as operators, when it came time to sell our car wash business who we sold to was important to Sam and me. Chris [Jenks] and the team at Amplify listened to us throughout the entire process. They found the right buyer in ZIPS who would be a good steward of the brand and helped find the best path forward for us where we can continue pursuing our passion for manufacturing high-quality car wash equipment.  

Jet Brite Car Wash  
Dave Delesandro  | Founder

Quick N’ Clean

My relationship with Commercial Plus over the past 20 years has been a very professional and trustworthy relationship. The feel of trust is very important in this business, and Jeff Pavone and his staff have exhibited a level of trust that makes me continue to feel that they have my best interest front of mind. I deal with many brokers across the nation, and my best experiences and results have been achieved with Commercial Plus representation.

Quick N’ Clean
Richard Karle | Owner

Zips

It’s been a great experience working with Amplify Car Wash Advisors to bring these sites into the ZIPS portfolio. We look forward to serving Dallas area customers with an enhanced car wash experience unique to ZIPS, with the added benefit of our extensive network of stores. This year we have continued our aggressive growth track with the goal to truly shine in our efforts to be the best express car wash provider in the industry and it’s acquisitions like this that help us reach our goals.

Zips
Gene Dinkens | CEO

ModWash

It was truly a pleasure to work with the Amplify team on our most recent acquisition of three additional operating locations in our home state of Tennessee. Their team provided great support and ensured a timely and seamless closing process, and we are excited for the additional growth opportunities this relationship will produce in our near future. We know this is the first of many transactions we will successfully complete with the Amplify team as we grow from our current operating store count of 23 to well over 200 locations across 14 states in the next two years.

ModWash
Brian Thornton | COO

Busy Bee Car Wash

For years I’ve talked to a lot of brokers with the same goal; sell your car wash chain as quickly as possible. But I chose to work with Amplify because they were interested and invested in the emotional side of selling my business and truly value long-term relationships. They weren’t forcing me to take a deal just to take a deal. They listened to my concerns and goals then educated me on all my options. And that’s how I decided on the right partner for my chain specifically. I went to bed at night after I signed the papers knowing I got the best deal possible versus just having any deal put in front of me that is only about money.

Busy Bee Car Wash
Jim Mulholland | Owner

Q Car Wash

We really appreciate Jeff and his entire team at Amplify. Their expertise and deep industry knowledge helped us navigate our options and best showcase our strengths to maximize our value. Caliber is a good fit for Q Car Wash as they look to expand in North Texas.

Q Car Wash
Viran Nana | COO

Cobblestone Auto Spa

I have known both Jeff and Bill for over thirty years combined, and respect them both as experts in our professional car washing industry. Their unique and individual strengths bring very strong talent and advice to operators, sellers, and buyers with sharp knowledge, client’s best interest in mind, and an actual personal touch. They hold the expertise and performance track record to hold a very high level of respect within this rapidly-changing car wash industry.

Cobblestone Auto Spa
Tuck Bettin | CEO

Oasis Car Wash

Turning over a business you started from one shovel of dirt 25 years ago and grew to several locations is a difficult and even uncomfortable process. So, when it came time for Larry and me to sell, we chose Amplify Car Wash Advisors to guide us through the process because of their strong reputation and thought leadership in the industry. Their team was professional and did a great job walking us through each step.

Oasis Car Wash
Dallas Hawkins | Partner

Busy Bee Car Wash

Selling our business after 52 years is big deal and certainly not a decision I took lightly, turning over our family legacy was an emotional process and I appreciated that the team at Amplify respected that. They helped me understand my options and found the best deal for me.

Busy Bee Car Wash
Jim Mulholland | Owner

Ducky’s Express

I have been a multi-site developer and operator in the car wash industry for over 30 years. Four years ago, a partner’s health concern forced me to sell a portion of my portfolio, and during that process, I was introduced to Jeff Pavone of Commercial Plus. I was immediately impressed with Jeff’s knowledge of my industry and his volume of successful deal closings. In a very short period of time, Jeff found the right buyer at a very fair price, and the transaction closed shortly thereafter. I was looking for a team with honesty, integrity, and a proven track record of success, and I found all of that in Jeff.

Ducky’s Express
Richard Miller

Trademark Car Wash

These are some of the most exciting times for car wash owners. As we grew 350% in revenue in just one year, we recognized the time to partner up with a top-tier team that has mastered growth in retail and specifically the automotive industry. Amplify Car Wash Advisors had helped us acquire, raise capital, and was the perfect partner to help us reach this next chapter of the Trademark story.

Trademark Car Wash
Andrew Goldberger